Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mirabelle Plum Wine: Part II

After 5-7 days, the wine should be done with the heavy duty fermentation. You can tell by taking a hydrometer reading, or by just seeing a slow-down in fermentation activity. I decided it was time when my must was less frothy. A hydrometer reading confirmed that the must was more alcohol than sugar or water, with a reading of 0.996.

Remove the pulp and skins. Since I used a nylon bag, this is easy-- just lift out the bag, and squeeze out the liquid until all that is left is a dry pulp.

All of your tools and containers should be sterilized. I have a product called "EZ clean" from the brew store, but you could also use a campden tablet crushed in 1 gallon of water.

Rack the must into your carboy(s). In this case, I am using a 3 gallon carboy. For other batches, I've used 1 gallon glass jugs.

Add water or sugar water to get the volume up to 1-2 inches of space in the neck of the jug. In this case, I sorely underestimated volume, so I added almost a gallon of water and 2 lbs of sugar. The water is filtered, then boiled and cooled to lukewarm. The boiling ensures that I'm not adding any additional microbes, and the cooling protects the yeast from being killed off. After adding sugar water, I was back up to a specific gravity of 1.07.

Finally, add the air trap. I filled my air trap with sulfite water (1/4 campden tablet in 1 quart of water) and put cotton in the top to keep fruit flies out.

At this point, the wine ferments for 1-3 months, or until sediment has built up on the bottom and fermentation slows to a barely perceptible crawl. Some sources suggest that it won't hurt to leave it "on the lees" for 3 months or so.

Shortly after racking to the carboy, vigorous fermentation started up again, no doubt revitalized by the fresh supply of sugar.

Mirabelle Plum Wine: Part I

Mirabelle Plum Wine Recipe (3 gallon batch)
(in progress recipe... adapted from and

12 lbs Mirabelle plums (12 lbs before pitting. Halve and pit the plums, then freeze. Thaw before use)
1 lb golden raisins
5 campden tablets
1 tablespoon yeast nutrient
1/2 tablespoon acid blend
1 tablespoon Pectic Enzyme
1/2 tsp grap tannins
5 lbs sugar
Yeast- Red Star Champagne yeast.
Potassium sorbate (if sweetening before bottling)
filtered water

Mirabelle plums! These are from Cornell Orchards, bought at Indian Creek Orchards in Ithaca, New York. According to the information provided by Indian Creek, these are a particular variety that was developed by Cornell. In any case, they are lovely golden plums with rosy highlights that look a bit like an overgrown grape. They are a sweet for a plum, and seem to have skins that are light on the bitterness sometimes found in plums.

I halved and pitted the plums, then froze them in bags to help facilitate the breakdown of the pulp. I was using a recipe, but the quantity of fruit required seemed vague to me. It called for 9 lbs-- is that before or after processing? In any case, I stared with about 12 lbs of plums, and might have ended up with 6-7 lbs after pitting and processing? I'm a little unsure...

Since plum wine recipes complain incessantly about the lack of "body" in plum wine, I decided to try adding some raisins. These are golden raisins, soaked in hot water, 1- 15oz box.

I pulverized the softened raisins with a soup blender.

I put the plums and the raisins in the primary fermentation container-- in this case, an orange home depot 5 gallon bucket with lid, lined with a nylon bag (purchased from an online brewing supply store).

I added two crushed campden tablets to the plums and raisins. I would have added 3, since my target volume is 3 gallons, but I am assuming a healthy dose of sulfites from the golden raisins. Next time, if I remember, I will add a campden tablet to each bag of pitted plums BEFORE freezing to prevent oxidation-- there was a significant amount of oxidation that occurred on thawing.

Before adding water or sugar, the specific gravity of the must was 1.072.

I added sugar water until the volume was about 3 gallons and the specific gravity was 1.1 (in this reading, the actual reading is 1.14, but with adjustment for the warm temperature of the must, it is about 1.1). I know there is a mathmatical way to figure out how much sugar and water to add... but I did it by trial and error, and took readings with my hydrometer until I got to 1.1.

After allowing the sulfites to work for 12 hours, add 1 tablepoon of pectic enzyme, to help further the breakdown of the fruit pulp.

After another 12 hours, add 1/2 tablespoon of Acid Blend, 1 tablespoon of Yeast Nutrient, and 1/2 tsp of grape tannin. Mix well.

Add your packet of yeast... in this case I used Champagne yeast. It was what I had in the refrigerator. Don't stir... just pour the packet on top, since oxygen is necessary to start the yeast in their fermentation. After an hour, the yeast should be bubbling and foaming-- you can then stir them into the must. Your wine is now underway!

For the next 5-7 days, the must should be stirred at least once a day with a clean, sterilized, non-porous spoon. When fermentation slows, or the specific gravity drops below 1.0, then you are ready to rack (Part II).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cupcakes for Julian

I had a little too much fun with this. Julian's comment to me: "I wish they had all been spiders. They tasted better." Apparently the spiders were grape-flavored... who would have guessed?

Black Plum Wine

Isn't it lovely? This was started on September 7th, and is now looking almost ready for a second racking. This wine started with about 11 lbs of plums (after pitting and partial skinning) and 1 lb of raisins.